Federal appeals court holds that Maryland’s 2013 law restricting assault weapons and large capacity magazines is constitutional

Military-style weapons like those used in Newtown and Orlando are ill-suited for self-defense and not protected by the Second Amendment

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Today, Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, and its partner organization the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, praised the decision by the full US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit finding that a Maryland law restricting military-style assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines is constitutional. The en banc decision declares that such weapons are designed for killing enemies on the battlefield, not for everyday self-defense, and therefore do not fall under the purview of the Second Amendment.

Dangerous military-style firearms with deadly accessories like large capacity ammunition magazines are often the weapon of choice for mass shooters looking to inflict as much carnage as possible. Specifically, the AR-15—a civilian version of the US military’s M-16 rifle—and similar assault weapons were used in the horrific massacres in Newtown, Aurora, San Bernardino, and Orlando. After 20 first graders and six educators were killed with an AR-15 Bushmaster at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, the Maryland legislature passed the Firearm Safety Act, which prohibited civilian use of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines. The gun lobby challenged the law on constitutional grounds, speciously claiming that the Second Amendment precludes commonsense gun safety measures designed to protect the public from mass shootings.

The litigation experts at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence teamed up with Marylanders Against Gun Violence and the law firm of Katten Muchin Rosenman to file an amicus brief in this critical case, arguing that the Supreme Court’s landmark 2008 Heller decision specifically supports the reasonable regulation of firearms, including restrictions on assault weapons and other smart gun laws.

“For the first time, a court has definitively ruled that military-style assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines are not protected by the Second Amendment, setting an important precedent for public safety,” said Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “The Fourth Circuit’s decision further confirms what most Americans take to be common sense: weapons of war have no place in our homes or on our streets. These military-style rifles and magazines are designed with a single purpose, and it’s not self-defense—it’s to efficiently kill multiple targets by shooting as many rounds as possible without reloading. The Maryland Firearm Safety Act helps protect communities from gun violence, and we are grateful to the judges of the Fourth Circuit for upholding this essential, lifesaving law.”